KENNY SHIELS has challenged his players to prove they’re not ‘damaged goods’ and secure a victory against Shamrock Rovers tonight which will see them take pole position in the race for Europe.
The Derry City manager knows a season which has promised so much could ‘fall flat’ if they drop further ground to Rovers tonight when the ‘Hoops’ visit Brandywell Stadium (Kick-off 7.45 p.m.).
Sami Ristila’s men climbed above Derry into third spot after their win over Galway United at the weekend and currently hold a one point advantage going into tonight’s proverbial ‘six pointer’.
Following last Friday night’s 3-1 disappointing loss to Dundalk, Shiels is anxious to prove the result was merely a blip as he bids to get back on the winning trail and rescue the Candy Stripes’ fight for the third European spot.
“We have to make sure we’re not damaged from Friday night. We don’t want to be damaged goods,” said the Derry City boss.
“We’ve had a good season so we don’t want it to fall flat,” added Shiels. “We have to look at winning this game against Rovers. We have to be positive.
We’ve had a good season so we don’t want it to fall flat. We have to look at winning this game against Rovers. We have to be positive.Kenny Shiels
“We certainly need a positive response and we’ve been working on that. The players know the rewards for getting a result.
“The boys were a bit down after the defeat but we’re up for this game, it’s a pivotal one. We have to play with passion, drive and energy - we’re going to out to win and to do it in style.
It’s Derry’s first home game since the 0-0 draw with Galway three weeks ago and Shiels is hoping home advantage pays off.
“It’s great to be back in the city and hopefully give our fans something to cheer about.We’ve had nine away games in nine weeks and it’s been hard on the players, while our next two after this one are also on the road.”
It’s certainly a crunch clash against the Dubliners who go into the game with a bit of momentum after a draw at Oriel Park followed by that 4-2 win over Galway.
But with five games remaining, Shiels doesn’t believe it’s a ‘win or bust’ scenario tonight.
“It would be good for us to get a two point advantage to get back to where we were last Tuesday,” he said. “It’s a big game and it speaks for itself. It’s one we would really like to win. We’re right up for this one.
“I wouldn’t say it’s win or bust, however. We’ve got similar games left after this. They’re away to Longford and Bohs and we’re away to Longford and at home to Bohs.
“The fixtures are pretty similar and there’s still a lot of points to be played for.”
Shiels reckons Rovers are a different proposition to the team so easily brushed aside in the 3-0 win at Brandywell back in April and is expecting a tough test for his side.
“That was a long time ago - it was April. The league has been so up and down.
“They’re into their third manager this season. And there’s been lots of changes in how they play. They won their first five games this season and then took a dip. Now they’re back again and have a bit of momentum.
“But Friday was our first away defeat since May in the league.
“We were beaten. We’ll take it and lick our wounds. Tomorrow’s game is a big one, I appreciate that. We’ll prepare to the best of our ability and see what we can do.”